By Jared Putnam
A COVID-19 outbreak at Clay County Care Center has resulted in the county’s seventh pandemic-related death.
Clay County Health Department made the announcement Monday in a release that reported 57 active cases at the care center, 32 residents and 25 staff members, which is home to more than 70 residents and employs about 100 staff members. As of Tuesday morning, only one other person associated with the center was hospitalized due to the virus.
Public Health Nursing Supervisor Clarissa Rogers said the individual who died was above the age of 80 and had underlying health conditions.
The care center’s cases are in addition to 52 active cases reported within the county on Monday, which marked a new high for Clay County on their own. Rogers said the care center numbers are being kept separate, instead of added into the county total, to avoid confusion about the spread of the virus within the community.
“We have kept the care center separate from the health department numbers for now,” Rogers said. “Once that case is closed, we’ll then move those numbers into ours. We just kept it separate, that way people got the bigger picture.”
A post-holiday spike in local coronavirus cases was expected due to social gatherings and follows the state and national trend. A record 3,781 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking the state’s fourth consecutive day of record-breaking numbers.
“Our hospitalization numbers are alarming,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday on Twitter. “We must protect hospital capacity so anyone who gets sick for any reason can get the care they need. It’s up to all of us to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed.”
The statewide death total was set to surpass 7,000 by Wednesday.
Rogers said it is difficult to confirm where Clay County Care Center’s fatal outbreak started, as the person who first tested positive may not have been the initial carrier.
“They actually had no known exposure that they were aware of,” Rogers said. “There’s no way to know if she really was the first or if someone else was an asymptomatic carrier.”
The care center’s outbreak came shortly before the facility was scheduled to receive its first round of vaccinations for residents and staff on Jan. 12. However, Rogers said there is no way to know what kind of difference might have been made by an initial round of vaccinations.
“If they would’ve only had one shot, they wouldn’t have had full immunity,” she said. “It would’ve only been partial because it’s a two-dose series.”
Rogers said Clay County Health Department is continuing to work to support the care center in any ways it can, including providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE). The health department recently delivered an additional 200 KN95 masks to the center and is providing guidance and assistance with documentation during the outbreak.
“We have a good relationship with the care center and we’re proud that they prevented it until now, and they’re doing a good job of trying to work with the cards they’ve been dealt,” she said.
Clay County Care Center could not be reached for comment.